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NYer Of The Week: Elaine Stillerman Helps Open Sensory Room For Special Needs Children

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This week's New Yorker speaks up for those unable to speak up for themselves. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.

Elaine Stillerman is a fighter. She's fighting for children who cannot speak up for themselves, like her son, Luke.

"You don't cross me when it comes to my child. I will fight to the end 'til I get what I want," says Elaine Stillerman. "Luke has Fragile X, which is an inherited developmental delay carried by one in 259 women worldwide. It's on the autistic spectrum."

Elaine's battle began with an unwelcoming incident at the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

"There was this one particular afternoon," she says, "when I said, 'we're going to the toddler room.' We were told, under no circumstances was an 11-year-old allowed in the 5-year-old room, and I got extremely upset."

Since then, she's channeled her anger and frustration into creating a peaceful space for children with autism spectrum disorders.

"The experience she had touched me very deeply because I truly believe that we can accommodate all children," says Georgina Ngozi, the director of the Brooklyn Children's Museum. "I learned quickly that one, she was determined to make something happen, to get the very best of what she could get for her son, and I was determined to help her do that."

The result: a sensory room at the museum. It's a room full of tunnels and swings where children with special needs can engage and explore their senses.

"It's integral to have a space that has sensory integration so that we can adapt the space to meet the needs of the children that come in," says Wema Harris, an educator at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. "So if we see a child that needs to zone out and relax for a bit, we can bring the lighting down."

It opened recently, and already, Elaine says Luke is making progress.

"Look at this child, who has an attention span of maybe 10 minutes. He's been here for half an hour consumed with a puzzle that he's never seen before. This is amazing," says Stillerman.

And so, for fighting to improve facilities for children with special needs, Elaine Stillerman is our New Yorker of the Week.

For More Information

For more information, go to brooklynkids.org.

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If you'd like to nominate someone to be NY1's New Yorker of the Week, send an email describing their qualifications to nyer@ny1.com or mail a letter to:

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New Yorker of the Week
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New York, NY 10011

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